Why is taking a language course in your first semester important?

The benefits of studying another language are numerous and varied. Language study improves analytical skills and focus, increases cognitive abilities across subjects, and improves mental flexibility and creativity. In today’s global market, the ability to communicate in more than one language is an asset that leads to increased career possibilities and richer life experiences. Finally, the study of a world language other than English is a central component in a liberal arts education – it leads to a fuller appreciation and understanding of one’s own language and culture as well as those of others, and increases general awareness and empathy for individuals and communities across the globe.

Bates College has a strong reputation for Fulbright awards. 75% of Fulbright offers to Bates students or alums for academic year 2019-20 took at least one language course during their time at Bates. Studying a foreign language and using it abroad will not only improve your language acquisition but will make you a competitive applicant for awards like the Fulbright and for a career in the foreign service, in international finance, in research, and in other settings.

  • Andrew Chen ‘19 of Wayland, MA, a double major in neuroscience and Spanish, was offered a Fulbright research grant for Spain. Language study: Spanish
  • Joshua Klein ’19 of Williston, VT, an environmental studies major, was offered a Fulbright Open Study/Research award for Peru. Language study: Spanish
  • Katie Ziegler ‘19 of Katonah, NY, a double major in Classical and Medieval Studies and German, was offered a Fulbright teaching assistant award for Germany.  Language study: German. Katie also wrote an Honors Thesis on the Roman elegiac tradition.

Language classes at Bates provide great opportunities for a small, more personal classroom experience. The language faculty at Bates create dynamic and engaging learning environments, and take pride in bringing their professional expertise into the classroom. Curricular and cocurricular activities provide students opportunities to explore areas of specific interest to them while being part of a vibrant community of global explorers.

Most languages at Bates offer introductory courses in the fall semester. Check with individual language programs for details or options for beginning your study of a language in the winter. If you are continuing a language you studied previously, or one you know informally, the language programs can provide you with placement  advice regarding the appropriate course for you. Bates language faculty often lead programs abroad in either the fall semester or short term – these can also be opportunities for beginning your study of a new language or returning to a language with which you have prior experience.

Taught by Japanese Lecturer in Asian Studies Keiko Konoeda.JPN 101 - Beginning Japanese IAn introduction to the basics of spoken and written Japanese as a foundation for advanced study and proficiency in the language. Fundamental patterns of grammar and syntax are introduced together with a practical, functional vocabulary. Mastery of the katakana and hiragana syllabaries, as well as approximately seventy written characters, introduces students to the beauty of written Japanese.

Studying abroad is an essential part of a majority of Bates students’ academic experience. Whether for a semester or a full year, having prior language study is helpful to truly experience the culture and connect with locals while abroad. To study in French, German, or Spanish speaking locations you will need to have studied two years of the language at the college level . To study in Chinese, Japanese, or Russian speaking locations you will need to have studied one year of the language at the college level. Please keep in mind that these are the Bates College minimum requirements. Some study abroad programs may require more language study. By not starting a language at Bates during your first year, you may be limiting your options for study abroad.

Preparing students for lives of meaningful work lies at the heart of the liberal arts mission.  Purposeful Work at Bates helps students identify and cultivate their interests and strengths and provides opportunities for them to acquire the knowledge, experiences, and relationships necessary to pursue their aspirations with imagination and integrity.

The Lewiston Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project turned to Bates students when it needed French, Portuguese, Spanish, Lingala and Arabic speakers. Gillian Coyne ’19 used her language proficiency to explore interests in social advocacy, translation and law, working in Lewiston as a translator with asylum seekers from francophone countries like Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

“Language is fundamental to everything that we do here, in terms of being able to communicate with clients and create a welcoming space,” says Alice Kopij, an ILAP staff attorney who runs the Lewiston office of the Portland-based organization.